Saturday, February 26, 2011

Test fitting...

I spent some time creating the rabbets for the frame and panel backs. These rabbets run along the inside rear of the side panels as well as along the backs of the tops and bottoms for each of the cabinets. The rabbets for each of the tops and bottoms are stopped, this to create a rectangular recess in which to fit the frame and panel back. I typically use the router to create these rabbets and I need to square the ends of the stopped rabbets to fit the vertical rabbets which run in the side panels. A picture is worth a thousand words here and the picture at the left provides the best explanation for what I am accomplishing.

Once I have completed this I was anxious to test fit the components of each of the cabinets to physically see what the cabinet begins to look like. I assembled the sides and tops and bottoms for each of the cabinets carefully marking each component for both orientation and to associate the component with the correct cabinet. You can see I am a big believer in liberal use of markings. The issue isn't any confusion while one is in the studio but rather when one comes back after a day or two and then trying to remember which part goes where.

Everything is fine at this point and next I temporarily clamp each of the cabinet components together. This temporary clamped state will remain for a while as I now begin to take exact measurements for the next set of components. I begin with the cabinet doors. These doors will also be veneered and I need to determine the size of each of the substrates while allowing for bake-ins and top and bottom edging. I also need to allow for the door rabbets, the ingenious method of having cabinet doors close onto themselves through the use of a lip and rabbet. This temporary clamping also allows me to begin measuring the frame components for the frame and panel at the rear of each of the cabinets.

I also now have the opportunity to better match the ambrosia maple door fronts with the ambrosia side panels, while seeking continuity in grain, graphics and also colour variations. The top and bottom edge treatment I have not decided on yet, this will likely be a very small chamfer around the periphery of the cabinet. There is an alternative approach to all this.... to create the doors first and build the cabinet round the doors. I've never done it this way, but it's like any other process, a matter of becoming familiar with it...much like the tails vs. pins approach to dovetail joinery. Next I create the substrates for the veneered door panels.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cabinet joinery...

I tend to use dowel joinery for this type of cabinet. This is to allow for any overhang of the top and bottom of the cabinet over the sides. I'm also a close follower of Krenov principles of furniture design and construction and James Krenov was an advocate of this type of joinery for small cabinets. At first it can be intimidating to get all the dowel holes perfectly lined up on both the vertical sides and the horizontal tops and bottoms of the cabinets, but over time this process becomes less threatening and I should dare say enjoyable. As with most types of joinery, one needs to be extremely methodical, develop a process and be very liberal with developing a marking strategy for the individual components and their orientation. This combined with a good ruler, long straightedge and sharp pencil is all that is needed really.

In the photos I use a small jig I created for these cabinets to drill the dowel holes and transfer the same holes to both the sides and the top and bottom components. No problems were encountered but I needed to re-drill the holes in one side since the jig skewed a little on me, I did this after plugging a few of the holes. I have all the cabinet case components drilled and ready to go now and am currently creating the rabbets at the back of each of the cabinets to house the back panel. I also assembled the cabinet sides and top and bottoms to determine if everything is fitting well together as well as determining if the aesthetics of each cabinet is pleasing. I'm happy so far, I will be even happier once I create the doors and view them as part of the cabinet. My goal is to have visual cohesiveness of the side panels and the front doors for each of the cabinets.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Side panels done...

I've gone ahead and applied the veneers to the side panels for both cabinets. The process I use for this is vacuum veneering. I used to use a large mechanical assembly with many vertical threaded rods and a series of horizontal cauls, but moved on to the vacuum press as it is somewhat more convenient and versatile. I still use the small mechanical press for very small flat veneer panel work, but the vacuum press excels at larger flat panels and curved veneering. It is important to mark and orient everything before correctly placing in the vacuum veneer press because once the glue is applied there is not much open time to sort things out. The process needs to be planned beforehand. The vacuum veneer press applies pressure uniformly so no worries about this aspect of veneering.

Once the veneering for each of the side panels was complete, I applied vertical ambrosia maple caps to the sides of each of the panels. They are a little fatter than the intended size and this is intentional to allow for trimming in both thickness and depth afterwards. I also orient the grain of each of these caps to follow the grain of the ambrosia and soft maple veneer, this makes life so much easier since any reversed grain issues are eliminated. After a little hand planing to bring the cap surfaces down to the level of the veneer, I scraped the complete surface of the front and back of these side panels. The ambrosia maple surfaces look seamless now and this is the ultimate goal. You can see the pink hues I was referring to earlier in this panel at the left. You can also see the layers and components which comprise these side panels; the substrate, veneers, bake-in, caps. The remaining operation for the side panels is to trim them in length, but I have yet to come to a decision on the exact length so they will remain a little long for a while. Next I am preparing the tops and bottoms for each of the cabinets.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Strange title I agree.. Also known as solid wood edging for substrates. The name probably originates from the fact that the solid wood is baked or veneered in with the rest of the substrate. Provides a solid wood surface to attach another layer of hardwood edging to the edges of the substrates. This step is in preparation for the veneering to follow. I normally use a softer, inexpensive hardwood such as poplar but in this case have gone ahead and use some of the remaining wood strips from the ambrosia maple. Once the veneer sheets are applied to these baked in substrates I will cap the horizontal edges with narrow strips of ambrosia maple.

All this to provide a strong, flat seamless surface with the illusion that the panel is a solid board of hardwood. As I mentioned earlier, since one side of these panels is ambrosia maple and the other side soft maple, the only real way to accomplish this is through veneering. The bake-ins are thicker than the substrate once I glue them to the sides, but a sharp, standard angle block plane makes quick work of bringing the surfaces to an even level. I tend to use smaller planes for these scenarios as I have much better control and can see where I am going. Planing the substrate is a no-no at this point, so I perform the planing very carefully. I might have forgotten to mention that the substrate I use is approximately 1/2 inch baltic birch... fairly stable, flat material. Sandwiching two layers of veneer around this substrate essentially creates a very flat surface. More about this later...